The dog quarantine of 1914

Pictured above is 1605 West Genesee Street, former home of James and Lillian Hubbell. James was one of the best known citizens of Syracuse, working as the County Clerk for many years. His neighbor, C.E. McCarthy, had a pet dog that was very fond of him and frequently ran to greet him when he left or returned home. This was again the case on November 20th 1913. When leaving this very home, James was greeted by his neighbor’s dog, which sprang up and bit his lip.

James was sent to Crouse-Irving Hospital where he stayed for treatment until the 27th.  The story goes, when James returned home many of his friends joked with him about rabies, mad dog and not being able to swallow. Worried about this possibility, James read everything he could on rabies and the fear of hydrophobia grew upon him. Weeks later, James would return to the hospital to tell the doctors he was becoming increasingly anxious and fidgety. A 1914 article in the Syracuse Herald stated that when he got to the hospital his fear of water developed quickly. The sight of a drop of water caused violent spasms of his throat.

Sadly, on January 4th, just six weeks after the incident, James passed away. Doctors questioned whether hydrophobia was the cause or whether it was induced by his own paranoia. Immediately following his death, the State Commissioner of Health ordered a dog quarantine within city limits. All dogs had to wear muzzles and owners had to obtain a permit to take their dog outside the city. Dogs on the western side of the city had to be kept under strict surveillance. An autopsy was completed which showed rabies was indeed the cause of death. The dog was put to sleep and sent to Cornell for study. The dog quarantine was officially called off on May 12th 1914.

The Syracuse Herald, May 12th 1914
The Syracuse Herald, May 12th 1914
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David is a nonprofit manager living in the Eastwood neighborhood of Syracuse. He began telling historical tales on his Instagram account, @SyracuseHistory in 2013 and co-founded in the fall of 2016.